We’re in Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo in the midst of our “Back to Borneo” tour. We’ve just arrived in Lahad Datu where we’ve met Adi, our new guide who will accompany us on the remainder of the trip. The next stop on our wildlife extravaganza was Tabin Wildlife Reserve. A one and a half-hour drive through oil palm plantations brought us to the resort where we checked in for a 4-night stay. Almost immediately we heard Northern Gray Gibbons outside our cabin and when we went to investigate we also got a great look at a Pale Giant Squirrel. This species is listed as near threatened by the IUCN due to logging and hunting.
|Pale Giant Squirrel|
Later that afternoon we joined Adi and Ley, our local guide for a visit to the Lipad Mud Volcano. We climbed an observation platform overlooking the mud volcano which still spews out mud laced with minerals that attract animals to this natural salt lick.
|Lipad Mud Volcano|
During our stay, 13 Bornean Bearded Pigs including a pair with 9 piglets came to the edge of the clearing.
|Bornean Bearded Pig & Piglets|
Colorful birds such as Temminck’s Sunbird and Rhinoceros Hornbills also visited the Lipad Mud Volcano and Marc was able to get some great shots.
After dinner, we prepared to go on our first night drive to look for nocturnal animals. We hadn’t even left the resort when Ley spotted a Sunda Stink-badger peering from under a bush. Despite their common name, they are not closely related to true badgers and are instead relatives of Old World skunks.
During the course of our night safari, we were fortunate to see two species of civet. The first was the more common Island Palm Civet (Paradoxurus philippensis) recently split from the Asian or Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Civets are native to tropical Africa and Asia and are sometimes referred to as civet cats. They are not felines but belong to their own family called Viverridae.
|Island Palm Civet|
The second civet species encountered was the rare Banded Civet (Hemigalus derbyanus). In fact, we were extremely lucky to see three of these beautiful creatures. It is the only species in the Genus Hemigalus.
We also had a great showing of a pair of Lesser Oriental Chevrotains or Mouse-deer on the road. Normally, these secretive ungulates are found deep in the forest. It is the smallest known hoofed mammal, weighing only 4.4 lb and measuring only 18 inches tall.
|Lesser Oriental Chevrotain|
We were hoping to see more cats including the Sunda Clouded Leopard but they remained elusive. We did see two Bornean Leopard Cats but not well enough for a photo. We had three more nights to track down these secretive felines.
The next day we did a bit of birding before resting up for our second night drive. Tonight we saw an impressive 14 Island Palm Civets including a mother with 4 pups!
We also saw a new species of Civet, the Malay Civet.
|Island Palm Civets|
|Bornean Leopard Cat|
|Southern Pig-tailed Macaque|
|Bornean Leopard Cat|
|Bornean Striped Palm Civet|
The next morning we said goodbye to Ley and left Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The next stop on our wildlife extravaganza was the Kinabatangan River. We had visited here back in 1992 but I was eager to see Proboscis Monkeys again and hopefully wild orangutans. We were not disappointed. That evening we found a troop of Proboscis Monkeys feeding in trees along the river. These endangered primates are among the largest monkeys in Asia and are the only species in the genus Nasalis. The large males are most comical with their long Jimmy Durante noses! So, why such a big nose? Some theorize that females prefer males with bigger noses because they can make louder vocalizations.
As we were cruising down the Kinabatangan River the next morning, Adi suddenly shouted “orangutans!”. A family of three Northeast Bornean Orangutans was feeding on figs in the trees quite close to the river. Incuk, our boat driver said these orangutans had not been seen in a week so we were lucky to find them. These critically endangered primates share 97% of our DNA. Sadly they face extinction due to habitat loss, palm oil plantations, and hunting. We watched the female with her youngster and a nearby male for 30 minutes.
|Northeast Bornean Orangutans|
|Cockroaches in the Cave|
The following morning we said goodbye to Incuk and thanked him profusely for finding the Flat-headed Cat. Our second visit to the Kinabatangan was even better than the first. Our return trip to Borneo continued to amaze us with incredible wildlife (and human) encounters. Stay tuned to see what surprises are in store for us as we continue our “Back to Borneo” tour.
We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc
Our route map: